Nizakana: Braised Fish

nizakana braised mackerel

Braising fish is a nice way to cook it without added fat. The fish can be whole, filleted, or cut into steaks. I’ve made this recipe with salmon, saba, and now yellow-fin tuna. For mild-flavored fish, make a broth seasoned with sake, mirin, and soy sauce. With strongly-flavored or oily fish, use stronger flavors such as miso, vinegar, salt, pickled plums, herbs, and spices. Elizabeth Andoh has a recipe for Ao-Zakana no Miso Ni which will be interesting to try.

Experiment with various greens as well. Spinach, rapini, mustard greens, chard, or dandelion greens are all tasty, but adjust the cooking time; mustard greens should be cooked longer than baby spinach.

Nizakana Japanese Braised Fish

Braised Fish in the Japanese Way
Nizakana
serves 4
page 385
Garnish:

  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, julienned
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 10 ounces spinach

Heat 1/2″ oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot, and cook the julienned ginger until crisp and lightly golden. Drain on paper towels and reserve. In a medium pot of salted boiling water, parboil the spinach until barely done, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool under cold running water. Squeeze gently to remove excess water.
The Fish:

  • 4 yellow-fin steaks (about 6 ounces each)
  • 2 slices peeled ginger
  • 1 cup sake
  • 3 Tablespoons mirin
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons shoyu

Place the fish on a rack over the sink. Pour boiling water over the fish. Turn the fish carefully, and do the same on the other side. This process is called shimo furi, or frost falling, because the fish becomes whitish. The water removes any strong fishy taste and foreign matter, especially if the fish has skin. There will also be less foam as you begin to cook the fish. Wipe gently with a paper towel.
Arrange the fish in a large shallow pan without overlapping. Add the ginger slices.
In a small saucepan, bring the sake and mirin to a slow gentle boil. In a kettle, bring 2 cups of water to boiling. Add the sake mix to the fish. Add enough boiling water to barely cover the fish. Bring the pan to a boil over medium heat and skim off the foam until no more foam appears.
Reduce heat to medium low, and add the sugar. Cover with a drop-lid, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the shoyu, cover again, and cook with a very gentle simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (don’t over cook the fish!). While the fish cooks, occasionally tilt the pan and spoon some of the liquid over the fish.
When the fish is cooked, add the spinach to the pan and let it absorb some of the cooking liquid.
To Serve:
Place the fish and spinach side by side in shallow bowls, and top with crisp ginger strips. Pour the remaining broth into each bowl.

miso-soup with fu, wakame, and ebiNizakana braised yellow fin tunaThis meal included rice, miso soup with fu, dried ebi, and wakame, and turnip and persimmon tsukemono.
I forgot about making the ginger.

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Tsukemono: Turnip and Persimmon leftover ramen
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2 thoughts on “Nizakana: Braised Fish

  1. Hi, I have just come upon your blog recently and am very impressed, I think you are very ambitious to teach yourself from a book. I have bought a couple and enjoy mastering an entry here and there but am always daunted by the number of dishes needed to make a meal! I have been to Japan twice ( my son lives there) and have been fortunate to have enjoyed home cooking which makes me even more intimidated. But if I watch you for a while perhaps I’ll gather my courage and commit a bit more. Thank you for sharing your adventure.

  2. Hi Eileen,
    Thanks for the very nice comment. You are right that it can be overwhelming to make a whole Japanese meal with so many dishes.

    Yesterday, I shopped for a non-Japanese dinner: veal shoulder stewed in white wine, broccoli for a veg, forgot the noodles to serve with the stew, got home, fussed with the stew, forgot to clean and cook the broccoli, and husband made rice. Anyway, from that you can see I’m not always so organized that I can manage more than a “one-dish-meal.”

    If you study the pictures in my blog, you’ll see that I don’t always have the whole contingent of little dishes. Or you’ll see that planned leftovers play a significant role—yesterdays crispy tofu becomes today’s salad or is added to the miso soup…

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